If people get intimidated easily by you, these 11 personality traits could be why

by Brendan Brown | March 15, 2024, 10:26 am

You probably don’t think of yourself as an intimidating person.

After all, most of us try to be as friendly and approachable as we can.

However, there’s more to being intimidating than just being physically imposing. Several traits can make a person intimidating to others. And it’s possible that you have some of these traits without even realizing it.

If you occasionally find that other people are intimidated by something about you, these personality traits may be the reason why.

1) Honesty 

Honesty is a good quality, right?

Usually, yes.

However, we all know that sometimes, little lies can be the glue that holds society together.

Unfortunately, not everyone wants to hear the truth all the time. And if you refuse to lie and insist on being truthful in all situations, other people are likely to find that intimidating.

If you’re an honest person, there’s no need for you to start lying just to fit in. But it may be wise to be aware of when absolute honesty is required and when you can get away with not saying the truth.

The thing is, people like to hold onto their illusions sometimes.

The lies we tell ourselves can become part of who we are. If you come along and shatter people’s illusions with brutal honesty, they may not thank you for it.

Instead, they may be scared of what you’ll say next.

2) Decisiveness

Decisiveness is also a good quality. Being able to make a quick decision is a sign of someone with a strong sense of self who knows exactly what they want and isn’t afraid to make a choice.

However, not everyone is like that. Lots of people struggle with making decisions. And if you don’t, it can make you seem intimidating.

Here’s why: Unfortunately, many people struggle to know what they want. And even more people struggle with expressing that in a healthy way. 

If you have no problem being decisive, it can sometimes come off as though you’re being bossy.

As psychiatrist Grant Hilary Brenner points out, intimidation often takes two people. It’s not just about you but about another person’s reaction to you.

In other words, what some people will see as your impressive decisiveness will be seen by others as an attempt to control them.

That doesn’t mean you should stop being decisive to please other people. But it provides some insight into why people may find you intimidating.

3) Logical thinking

Everyone thinks of themselves as a logical person. Whatever beliefs and opinions we have, we tend to think we’ve arrived at them through a logical thought process.

But really, that’s not often the case.

Instead, most people form their opinions by following their feelings. They may seek out evidence that backs up what they already feel – which is the opposite of thinking logically.

If you are a logical thinker, it can be intimidating to those who aren’t.

It means you will have lots of evidence to back up anything you say. If you get into a discussion with people who don’t have that, they can often feel overwhelmed by your knowledge and intellect.

Ultimately, intimidation is about power. Feeling intimidated comes from feeling that another person has more power than you in a situation. That power can be physical, intellectual, social, financial, or any other form power takes.

As psychologist Jessica Tracy argues, we defer to people we perceive as more powerful than us, which isn’t necessarily bad. But it can become a problem in social situations where we want people to see us as equals.

4) Directness

Manners can be a tricky thing. One person’s directness is another person’s rudeness.

Are you the type of person who likes to get straight to the point, without a lot of unnecessary verbal dancing around?

In many situations, that’s a good quality. Being direct can save lives in the high-stakes world of an operating theater, on a construction site, or in a gym where people can easily get hurt.

But in social situations, most people appreciate at least a little bit of indirectness.

5) Not liking small talk

I get it. I’m not a big fan of small talk myself. Nothing seems worse to me than discussing the weather or what was on TV last night.

But if you’re someone who shies away from small talk, it’s important to remember that this kind of idle chatter serves an important social purpose.

Engaging in small talk lets other people know that you are like them. It makes them feel that you are harmless and more approachable.

If you want to be less intimidating, it might be a good idea to master a few pieces of small talk that you can keep in the back of your mind for when you need them.

A little bit of chitchat can go a long way to put other people at their ease around you.

6) Not putting up with complaining

Maybe you’re the stoic type. A person who doesn’t complain, and would rather focus their energy on finding solutions to problems than just talking about the problem over and over again.

Again, that’s an admirable quality to have.

However, people who don’t complain often have a hard time putting up with those who do.

Lots of people like to vent and complain when they have problems. You don’t necessarily have to listen.

But if you make it clear to others that you aren’t interested in hearing their complaints, they may find you more intimidating.

7) Not trying to please people

It’s not easy being a people pleaser. People who devote too much time to pleasing others often lose themselves and end up living lives that don’t reflect what they want.

However, if you refuse to spend your time pleasing others, be warned that it may make you seem intimidating.

The thing is, people are afraid of those that they perceive as having higher status than them. According to psychologist Joseph Marks, people may ostracize those that they are unsure of.

As you can see, living your life the way you want can come at a cost.

8) Knowing what you want

Knowing what you want is key to living a purpose-driven life.

But it’s important to remember as you pursue your goals that not everyone lives that way. In fact, there’s a huge number of people in the world who have no real idea of what they want out of life.

If you are someone with very firm opinions on what you will and won’t tolerate, it can come off as intimidating to people who lack that quality.

9) Being opinionated

If you’re a logical person, you may have strong opinions that you can backup with facts and research.

But that won’t necessarily endear you to other people.

It’s fine to have opinions, and even better if you can back them up with logic. But remember that a lot of people don’t operate that way.

Sharing your opinions without being asked is a good way to make sure people don’t like you. And even if you are asked for your opinion, if it is too strongly expressed, you may unintentionally intimidate people around you.

10) Being assertive

It’s a tough world, and the meek rarely prosper. Being assertive and going after what you want is a key quality both at work and in your personal life.

However, it can also be intimidating.

Once again, this is a reflection on the people around you as much as it is on you. If people are intimidated by your assertiveness, it may be because they have problems being assertive themselves.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful of how your assertiveness can be mistaken for aggression.

11) Following your own goals

Our society is set up to make us want certain things. After all, it’s easier to sell to people if you can convince them to arrange themselves in neat little groups.

It’s always surprising to me how ready people are to want what they are told. The house in the suburbs, the white picket fence, or whatever else the adverts are trying to sell us.

Following goals you’ve made for yourself is a far better way to live. But it can also be intimidating for those who don’t do that.

People like people who fit into the group. Following goals that don’t make sense to them is one way to signal that you aren’t part of the group, and that can be intimidating to people with a deep need to belong.

Is it bad to be intimidating?

By now, you may have noticed that many qualities that make you intimidating are also qualities that make you a person with a strong sense of self.

Therefore, it’s important to think about the kind of person you want to be. If you want people to like you and not be intimidated by you, it’s better to fit in. But if you want to be truly happy, it may be better to follow your own path.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose between the two. By being aware of these behaviors, you can help others be less intimidated by you without changing the core of who you are.

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